In the pantheon of divorce albums, the crown must be worn by those who are at the centre of long-term relationships. The end of summer romance should only justify one song. Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights may be the breakup album that dominates them all, Courtney Marie Andrews’ Old Flowers deals with the consequences of an almost ten-year relationship with much more compassion. The album reflects the difficulty of separating and moving forward, and is also a reminder of what might have become sour.
Musically, Old Flowers are as dissected as they come. Andrews plays guitar and piano and accompanies first class musicians – Matthew Davidson of Twain (multi-instrumental) and James Krivchenia of Big Thief (drums). Krivchenia is used to friendly help, and her contribution here ranges from a whisper to a scream – both masterly. In the middle piece “Dream of Carnival” Andrews’ piano and his playful singing are interrupted by the occasional shock of the drums, which land with the burden of counting the years.
Andrews’ vocals may not have the hard-boiled colloquialism of Iris Dement, but in his purity of tone they share the same deep level of pathos. Whether it leads us to folk forays like “Burlap String” and the title track or the quieter meditations of “If I Told” or “Break The Spell”, Andrews’ singing is a beacon. The fact that it can also lead us to the light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek country song of “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” allows the listener to know with a wink that Andrews has full control over his abilities.